THE STORY – A team of African-American women provide NASA with important mathematical data needed to launch the program’s first successful space missions.
THE CAST – Taraji P Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst & Jim Parsons
THE TEAM – Theodore Melfi (Director/Writer) & Alison Schroeder (Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 126 Minutes
By Matt N.
There is a bit of the old’ “been there done that” style of storytelling that makes its way through “Hidden Figures” but the results at least come out better than normal as far as true stories go set during the times of the Civil Rights Movement. The film’s title is not just a reference to the hidden figures within math that did not exist. It is a reference to the hidden figures, the hidden people, mainly the women of color, who were involved in successfully putting recently deceased astronaut John Glenn in orbital space during the 1960’s. This is a well intentioned, well balanced and perfectly respectful film that not only honors its subjects but also gives hope to anyone who is talented and may be getting held back due to society’s prejudice.
“Hidden Figures” takes place during the 1960s when America was battling against the Soviet Union in the Space Race for supremacy. John Glenn (Glen Powell) will be going up into space soon on behalf of the United States, however, the math to not only get him up to the stars but to also bring him back does not exist yet. Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) is a gifted mathematician who along with Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) work in the segregated area of the West Area Computers division of NASA. Together, they will have to work with their respective bosses and supervisors (Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons) to not only overcome the technical challenges of putting a man in space but also the segregation, prejudice, and racism that exists in their workplace as well.
“Hidden Figures” boasts one of the best ensembles of the year. From a steely, take no nonsense, Kevin Costner, to the condescending Kirsten Dunst and Jim Parsons, everyone shines in their roles but it is the main trio of women who run away with the movie. Octavia Spencer brings a quiet, yet strong resolve to her role as Dorothy Vaughn. Janelle Monae exudes charisma and attitude in her role as Mary Jackson, proving with this and “Moonlight” that she is truly a new star. And Taraji P. Henson nails the role of Katherine Johnson, the brilliant mathematician who had to deal with prejudice and racism within the workplace despite being the smartest person in the room with an uncanny knack for numbers. Her one scene in particular where she lets out her pent up frustration with her working conditions is a real highlight for the 45-year-old actress and she pulls it all off with ease.
“Hidden Figures” also is backed by some fine music from Hans Zimmer, Pharrell Williams, and Benjamin Wallfisch with a few songs, mainly “Runnin” and “Victory” being really hummable and memorable tunes. There is an importance to this story in how we need each other to achieve great things no matter anyone’s gender or color of their skin. The music helps to establish the mood and drives the feelings of determination and joy through its uplifting moments. And that is what “Hidden Figures” is. It’s uplifting entertainment for the whole family, looking to tell the untold story of the ladies that were responsible for putting an American man in space. Even when their jobs are threatened by the inclusion of IBM computers that can do all of the calculations that a human being can, they never retaliated in a manner that was out of line to their supervisors when they felt they were being treated differently. They let their hard work show their character and in turn, they earned the respect of their peers. For years, many have probably not known who these people were and what they accomplished. Well, thanks to “Hidden Figures” these important women are no longer hidden anymore and that is something to celebrate.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – An excellent ensemble is backed by an important and uplifting true story that gives a name and a face to the hidden figures behind the Space Race of the 60s.
THE BAD – Although well told, the beats of the storytelling are very familiar.